This 5 song EP from San Diego band Oaks is on one of the most well produced pieces of non-label supported music I’ve heard in a long while, which leads me to believe they might be supported by a label on their next outing. It sounds good in the car, on headphones and through the home stereo. Thick and viscous is the center flavor in each of these choice cuts, making a filling meal of fatty overdriven bass, slavering rhythm peppered by crunchy distorted guitars and expertly executed vocals.
The band is informed by their former tours of duty in bands like Spermatozoa, Flocking Eduardo and the formidable Tight Bros From Way Back When but, with respect to their former bands, seem to gel much better in this fiery incarnation. If the Melvins and Jesus Lizard are the uncles of this hard rock family then Oaks and their kindred spirits in bands like The Long and Short of It and Big Business are the trouble making nephews.
This is the type of record you’ll want to listen to loud, not some fucking shitty MP3 either, get your hands on a disc or vinyl if they press any (fingers crossed) at their upcoming release show June 1st at the Casbah. The track “Kix 4 Free,” has been stuck in my head for weeks, popping in and out at weird times like while I’m watching CNN in the morning or riding the trolley to work thinking about what kind of crazy Bas Rutten move I’d like to pull on those officious asshole Trolley cops, using the ‘ambiance,’ while saying, “Dohnt Yu Do Dat!”
I have yet to see these guys live so I’ll reserve judgement on that aspect however they commonly play around town with some of my favorite bands like Archons, The Long and Short of It and Get Your Death On (a band that needs to seriously release that California Condor record already!). So I’ll be witnessing the shred at the Casbah this sunday, even though its technically a ‘school’ night and attempt to under indulge in PBR so Monday ain’t so rough.
Sean Myott, bass player from San Diego trio Firethorn had been trying to send his bands debut to me for what seemed like months. I don’t know if my post office box has an anti-band-mail charm on it but that’s not the only example of things being sent by bands that hadn’t made it to me. However, bands ‘sending’ anything besides good intentions or an unpaid bar tab is always somewhat of a farce. That’s why they hire PR people right? Sean came through and dropped off Pollution for the Fountain of Youth in person to me, and we shook hands, connecting me inextricably to favor.
Pollution is an intriguing debut parked comfortably along Bleach-era Nirvana and classic Southern California hard rock with the occasional nod to Descendents-style, irreverent metal worship. They definitely mine the depths of late 80’s and early 90’s punk and Seattle sound, wearing their influences proudly in their riffs and sentiments.
“A Looker Named Lexie” has that schizophrenic, multiple-voices-jabbering in the bridge technique that they pull off effortlessly on the record and I’d be interested to see how they do it live.The musicianship truly shines on the track, “The Nerve!!” where acoustic guitar is the thematic voice of the song. The production is interesting and could stand alone as a statement in uniqueness or on the other hand, it could use some Alan Douches style mastering to enhance the subtleties.
Pollution goes well with Mudhoney, whiskey sours, bonghits and muscle cars.
I look for the pattern. Try and find it in the music, analyzing every note and attempting to rationalize why I find Kensington Heights so brilliant. That’s what a music critic does right? Draw some comparisons, make some vague music-dork analogies that may or may not aid the band in world domination. For the sake of our classical music review readers here is an honest example; vocalist Steve LambkeBryan Webb* has the lyrical dexterity of Fugazi’s Guy Piccioto crossed with the sentimentality of Neil Young and the passion of Drive By Truckers Patterson Hood.
There you have it. How lazy and poignant. Music writer pats himself on back. You can’t convince someone that the reasons you like a record would be the same reasons they’d [the music buying/stealing public] like a record. However, as a music lover I want to share my joy with everyone I know.
As a music lover I want my friends and family to derive the same level of pleasure I get from listening. As a writer I want my readers to get excited about music. About ROCK music. There are no standout tracks on Kensington Heights because all of them standout. From the driving rhythm of “Trans Canada” to the pensive acoustics of “New King,” Kensington Heights is an incredibly consistent and focused documentation of rock music.
Thinking ahead, I’ll say that in 20 years I’ll be listening to Kensington Heights and I’ll find new ideas and sounds in the music to be inspired by—sound consumed in roughly 50 minutes that hold the promise of future discoveries. Isn’t that what makes a good record? Isn’t that what makes good art or why art is good?
Kensington Heights was released in Canada on April 15, 2008 and will be released in the US on April 29th, 2008.